Closing the Gutenberg Parenthesis: The Renaissance of Pre-Modern Media and Mindwork
The notion of a “Gutenberg Parenthesis” is a usefully provocative way of formulating the suggestions made from several different perspectives that current developments associated with the digital media and internet technology effectively constitute a reversion to conditions prevailing prior to the dominance of the printed text and the book. The emerging, post-parenthetical, media have more in common with pre-parenthetical manuscript culture and oral folklore than any of them have with the textual phase in between. Media Studies and Medieval Studies (and Folkloristics) should accordingly have much to tell each other; likewise the energetic confusions and controversies provoked by our closing of the Gutenberg Parenthesis can be better understood in juxtaposition with the explosive Shakespearean moment of its opening. It may also be predicted that this post-parenthetical return to the pre-parenthetical in media processes will be accompanied by a dismantling of parenthetical configurations in cultural production and mindwork, for example with regard to the originality, autonomy and stability of the individual cultural product; the memorial reproduction of verbal information; the perception and representation of the material world.